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E. Katie Gammill AKC Judge, Showring Editor / December 2010


Analysis of the new AKC policy on soliciting for assignments, provisional judges, how it affects clubs and exhibitors, and which judges will solicit.


EDNA “KATIE” GAMMILLAKC has given judges permission to solicit as independent contractors, thus removing the “fear factor” of being caught doing something wrong.


After the big decision, in-boxes are overloaded. Business cards are printed even though there is an AKC judge’s book for reference, the Internet provisional judges list, and the AKC Gazette. But we must ask; over the past forty years, wasn’t the American Kennel Club’s idea regarding those who advanced in the judging community and those who fell by the wayside on target?


Should judges now be “entitled” to pursue breeds at a faster rate? Earning a living as a judge or handler in this economy is a far fetched dream today. Objecting to AKC scrutiny or refusing to follow proven rules does NOT make good judges. Constantly challenging AKC procedure divides the ranks of the judging community.


Does today’s greased highway make better judges?” There IS a connection between fast tracking and “breed deterioration”. Hiring provisional judges with less than one Group may fulfill a club’s educational requirement, but it also discriminates against older judges with additional breeds. In the past, if exhibitors didn’t support a judge, he or she fell by the wayside due to lack of provisional assignments. Today, applicants are guaranteed one group regardless of their expertise.


Were more judges really needed? NO! Replacement judges were coming up through the ranks. However, judges who followed rules for years without complaint were shoved aside by those who were into “networking”. Many older judges do NOT think solicitation is acceptable, nor professional. And what about those judges who paid fines and received AKC suspensions due to “whispers” of impropriety? They have been betrayed.


Newer judges ask: “How can I establish a reputation for being a judge if I don’t get in the ring to judge?” This may come as a surprise, but a good reputation comes prior to filling out that application. It is established through showing quality dogs, handling, being a good sport, assisting others, and mentoring. By applying these factors, desired reputations and support will be forthcoming. Past judges entered the judging community due to the encouragement of exhibitors. Today’s exhibitors have little input regarding panels. It took three to five years to complete required provisional assignments and ten years to reach Group status, all done without whining or questioning of AKC procedures.


Today, new judges receive a stipend for their services. Appreciation used to be a tank of gas, maybe. A judge was thrilled to get his/her hands on dogs. It was common to take closed book standards test in one area, then travel miles another direction for the interview. The AKC should NOT accommodate personal schedules. Truth be told, applying to judge has ALWAYS been expensive and inconvenient. Racing for more breeds is a personal decision that requires more capital be invested. We are NOT asked to be a judge, we CHOOSE to be. Applicants know specific requirements needed today to apply to judge. IN THE PAST, judges had no idea... There were NO organizations to smooth the way and no recourse when told ‘NO’.


“Solicitation” is NOT new. The fact remains: “Anyone can be a judge, not everyone will be invited to judge”. Forcing the system to accommodate provisional judges of only one or two Groups does not set well. We must ask, “Will public solicitation backfire?” Clubs might choose NOT TO HIRE a “pushy provisional” judge. IF a judge loves the breeds he/she currently judges, stay within that group. Advancement removes the opportunity to judge favorite breeds.


The time involved between applications, approvals, and assignments is already streamlined. Many judges celebrating the new solicitation rule have a five digit judge’s number. The question is: should AKC honor demands for a quicker route to additional breeds? The most seasoned judges, those with several groups, are smart enough to know they cannot be an expert in all breeds. Some return to the check the standards or have discussions with knowledgeable breeders to clarify questions.


Many new judges join clubs and serve on the judge selection committees. IF a judge enters the ring un-prepared, their career is short-circuited by the dog show hotline. Now that judge’s can solicit, can the AKC impose yearly dues?


In the past, anyone affiliated with selling dog products, owning a kennel, boarding, or handling could not judge. Those questioning the AKC approval process found it difficult to proceed. Whining or reconsideration was unheard of. In that era, a rep’s observations included how one checked the dog’s bite, the attire worn, and utilization of the ring, staying on schedule, book marking, and handling of exhibitors. Today it is “meets expectations” or “does not meet expectations”. This watering-down tells us nothing.


Open book tests do NOT make good judges. Having done both, I can say it’s the closed book test that burns the template into your brain. True, it IS more expensive to attend nationals and seminars but one should understand the thrill is in the journey. Opportunities today far exceed anything of the past, yet constant complaints and demands continue.


Few older judges will pass out business cards. Many old timers will not solicit due to integrity and professionalism. The chasm widens between those who were patient and those demanding special consideration. Older judges neither expected an easy route, nor did they push the system. The AKC attempts new procedures as requested. However, patience and this entitlement mind set are contradictive to each other and make for strange bed-fellows.


Changes must affect ALL involved in the judging community, not just a specific group. Long time exhibitors are walking away in droves. Newer people entering our sport tend to be short lived. Change requires everyone to be treated fairly; otherwise it will push us all over the cliff of good intentions. Change without common sense or experience results in unexpected repercussions.


Seasoned judges will most likely continue on in the same professional manner despite permission to solicit. The bottom line for both exhibitor and judge is this: “if there are no rules, there is no game."


Judges Debate Solicitation Should they solicit assignments? Even judges can't agree. EST 2005

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